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    Sep 2012
    Necro-equestrian Pugilism

    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground LX

    Truenamer is the obvious entry point here. Humanoid covers a pretty wide range of races, so hopefully we'll see some variety. Remember, proof-read your entries, double check that you qualify for everything (or at least qualify for the SI), and do something to either enhance each element of the SI, or come up with a use for them that isn't obvious or listed in the SI entry.

    NOTE: Due to the nature of the Truespeak mechanics, I won't be penalizing for reliance on the Amulet of the Silver Tongue or the Paragnostic Assembly.

    My comments aren't meant to be mean, just critical. Also, my apologies for the brevity, my free time just isn't what it used to be.

    Derleth Cruestus - 9.25

    Originality: 2.75
    Let's see. You're one of two humans this round, and you don't do much of interest with the race. You also aren't the only rogue/binder (albeit the only pure rogue), and again, there isn't much of interest done with it. I do like the crossbow sniper angle you took, but you didn't take any of the feats that support such a build (sniping feats or crossbow feats). The Psionic feats were nifty, but with your low Concentration, they are all but guaranteed to be a once and done thing (gambling your move action on a 40% chance seems like a waste, even for a crossbowman). Recitation of the Mindful State was a neat feat that was put to decent use here. All in all, there just ... wasn't much here. About the only thing going for you here is your slightly odd class combo. It's otherwise pretty bland.

    Power: 2.5
    Ok, so there are some serious issues here. First off, you rely on hit-and-fade tactics but you aren't very good at them. You require multiple turns to shoot (a standard action), teleport (Cadence of the Distant Step is a standard action), and turn invisible (the invisibility ability granted by Malphas requires a full-round). That's a 3-round process before you can repeat it. And if you are dealing with creatures who have any kind of competent detection abilities, you are doomed to fail at your chosen tactic. That said, you can still shoot each round, which would arguably give better results than your hit-and-fade routine. Against foes who aren't immune to it, you can apply your limited Sneak Attack and Sudden Strike (from Malphas, it's not Skirmish) damage, but otherwise your damage output is almost entirely item dependent (Knowledge Devotion is a nice little bump - and would be better if you could reliably hit the DC of 36+ for the top tier, which you can't). Sure, you get one good shot to open the combat, but it won't be enough to pop a CR equivalent target without massive WBL investment. Speaking of opening the combat, you do get some utility from you Raven, but you only have half of the scouting skills (which you don't max), and your stealth skills are very poor. Your rogue skills (Open Lock, Disable Device, and Search) are all sub-par, even after you account for the +1 from Recitation of the Mindful State. You can try to use your utterances to boost some skills, but you will be hard pressed to hit your DCs with any sort of reliability, and the Law of Resistance is going to ensure that yet again, those tricks are going to be 1-2/day. Your Craft skill is low enough that you will require extensive amounts of time to Craft your poisons, because hitting the Craft DC on the more useful ones will be beyond your ability on average. You do hit +17 BAB, which is nice, and your saves are decent.

    And at the levels you will be consistently hitting for 50+ damage in a single attack, a DC 15 Fort save is going to be pretty trivial to most equal CR challenges.

    You also seem to have missed out on the Paragnostic Assembly from Complete Champion, which really could have boosted your Truespeak checks.

    You can't really hold your own in combat, and out of combat your skills are low enough to mean that you are more likely to fail at a given task than to succeed. Derleth knows enough about everything to almost be dangerous at them, and if he's super lucky on his rolls, he can deal a solid, single hit before the gribblies eat his face. Basically, almost all of your power comes from items. In this competition, that's a Bad Thing TM.

    Elegance: 2
    I'm going to come right out and make the relatively safe guess that you are a new competitor. That's great! The more the merrier! For future reference, you don't generally include items in your build unless you've found what appears to be a neat new trick. And relying on items for anything (with the exception of the Amulet of the Silver Tongue and Paragnostic Assembly for this competition) is going to see you take a hit to Power, at least from me. I would suggest looking back at past winners to see how the builds were put together, sourced, etc. And take a look HERE, there are some great tips and tricks that will serve you well. That said ...

    The build is not well sourced, aside from the extensive item lists. Thankfully, I knew where everything you used was. You qualify for everything you took, and nothing was really questionable here. The entry was not terribly easy to read, and the build doesn't flow well. You jump around between your classes for no apparent reason and you take Skill Focus(Knowledge[Religion]) for no apparent reason. You also take a hit for suffering a multi-class penalty (humans ignore their highest level base class when factoring multi-class penalties, leaving you with Rogue 2/Truenamer or Binder 4, which is enough of a divide to inflict a 10% xp penalty. The Rogue dip stands out. You also enter the SI as late as possible, meaning that for most of your build you aren't an Acolyte of the Ego (and aren't really one after you enter, but we'll get to that below).

    On the upshot, it's a pretty portable build with no questionable rules elements.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2
    So, how did you do with the SI? Let's take a look. We'll start with the prerequisites. You max Truespeak, speak at least four languages, and are Humanoid, which is good. You don't really do anything with any of it, aside from taking Able Learner due to being a Human. You also don't do much with any of the SI's class skills, with the notable exception of Knowledge Devotion.

    So what about the actual class features? You ... uh ... you don't have any listed use for them. Nothing you have or do builds on or makes use of these abilities in any way. It's pretty hard to argue that you even get much use from the bonus feat, it gives you +1 to a few skills that have nothing to do with the SI. You do take the SI to its completion, though I'm not sure why.

    I'm afraid this build makes me ask the dreaded, points reducing question, why did you take the SI instead of ... anything else?

    Sabine Murkwoods - 13.25

    Originality: 4
    I like the idea of Illumians and Truespeak. It all makes a great deal of sense to me, so I'm glad to see one here. This isn't the only Rogue/Binder combo, but Psychic Rogue is a nice twist. Inquisitor kinda came out of left field, and is the real gem here. Insightful reflexes is nice to see on a build that prioritizes Int, and Knowledge Devotion is as welcome here as in any other build. Elder Evil cheese is well known, so nothing really new there. I did like binding Naberius and comboing that with Chosen of Evil though. Truename Training is a neat way to meet the SI prerequisites. The build as a whole feels pretty good. I'm not familiar enough with Krynn to know how badly including Illumians messes with the fluff, but it honestly feels like it fits well, and I like it.

    Power: 3.5
    So, what can you actually do with all of that? Well, it turns out that in the beating face department, you do ok, but you do much better in out of combat situations. Power Attack and BAB +16 keep your melee damage relevant, and you've got a solid Truespeak check to reliably use your abilities at least once per encounter. Naberius gives you some neat utility alongside your psychic rogue stuff, and you've got a host of skills, however most of them are not terribly relevant unless you sacrifice your reliability with your Truespeak checks. Diplomacy is solid, and you have the flexibility to make a skill check if you absolutely have to with Extreme Effort. Your knowledge skills mostly work well with Knowledge Devotion (the ones at 10+ ranks anyway), and are a good use of your skill points. Your Elder Evil bonus feats give you some good defenses, and Staggering Strike helps you survive full attacks. You have ways of shoring up any weak saves.

    Elegance: 2.75
    The build is well-sourced and easy to read. You have that glaring Binder dip, but you do put it to good use. You qualify for everything you took, except the Recitation of the Meditative State feat. The recitation feats require the ability to speak Utterances, and despite their similarity Cadences are not the same thing. Cadences work almost exactly like Utterances with the notable exception that the Laws which apply to Utterances don't apply to Cadences. The Law of Resistance is specifically called out to apply to Cadences, but that's it.

    The only other thing I need to mention here is that swearing to an Elder Evil may get you the hairy eyeball from a GM, meaning that the build isn't all that portable. That's a minor issue though.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3
    So, how does this delightful little evil librarian do using the SI? She does ok. You meet the prerequisites, and max 3 of the class skills. You don't do much with Diplomacy, but you get an excellent use out of Concentration with your Inquisitor trick. And your choice of race synergizes nicely with the flavor and mechanics of the class. But aside from that, you don't really do anything with the SI. Yes, you get your Truespeak to a point where you can use the abilities reliably, but then you don't really do anything with those abilities.

    That said, I like Sabine, she feels very much like a Truespeak user, and a solid choice for an Acolyte of the Ego.

    Benjamin Nutt - 13.25 13.75

    Originality: 3.5
    A human who fights against Truenamers is interesting, and while Truenamers aren't terribly dangerous to equal CR threats, I can see where they might be deadly to CR 1 commoners (such an easy Truespeak DC!). Human Paragon was a clever way of picking up the ability to get Truespeak as a class skill. Cobra Strike Monk and Sneak Attack Thug Fighter were interesting to see. Your rationale for Craft Wondrous Item is questionable, but clever. Sun School on a Shadowpouncer isn't all that new, but I do like that you picked up Shadow Stride to further utilize it. Recitation of the Sanguine State is neat, but oddly enough, I don't think you qualify for it (see Elegance). You actually do something interesting with your race (Human Paragon to pick up a prerequisite skill), so you don't suffer for being one of two Humans this round. You are also one of two Telflammar Shadowlords. As a whole, it doesn't wow me, but it does a pretty good job of standing out.

    Power: 3.5
    Let's see, you've got +17 BAB, a couple of sneak attack dice, Invisible Fist, and a reliable 1/encounter Shadow Pounce with Sun School kicker. These are all good. Darkstalker is a solid boost to stealth, and you keep your stealth skills at maximum. You have a decent UMD score and a handful of low level spells for some extra versatility. Power attack with your BAB gives you a decent source of damage, and your saves wind up decent. However, your Diplomacy score is not as good as you advertise, especially with a Charisma penalty. I appreciate your efforts to put points into one of the SI's class skills, but more would have really sold the point. As is, you have enough to succeed sometimes, which you can't reliably count on. You've got a grand total of +43 to your Truespeak checks, meaning you need to roll a 14 to hit the DC for Cadence of the Distant Step. Every use thereafter adds +2 to the DC, leaving you a total of 4 uses per day, most of which aren't very likely to be usable (you're going to fail most of those checks). That means you aren't going to be shadowing pouncing more than once, maybe twice per encounter. It's still potent, but not as potent as most Shadowpouncers. As long as you aren't tumbling through enemy squares, your Tumble is ok, and Balance is taken to it's expected cutoff.

    All in all, you make a solid front-line fighter with a small bag of utility tricks.

    Elegance: 3 3.5
    Your build is well sourced, and you qualify for everything you take with two exceptions one exception. You don't appear to qualify for Recitation of the Sanguine State. It requires the ability to speak Utterances, and despite their similarity Cadences are not the same thing. Cadences work almost exactly like Utterances with the notable exception that the Laws which apply to Utterances don't apply to Cadences. The Law of Resistance is specifically called out to apply to Cadences, but that's it.

    The other item you don't qualify for is Telflammar Shadowlord. You must either qualify to select regional feats from Thesk, or have 2 ranks of Knowledge Local. You don't have any knowledge ranks, and You don't have the languages of someone from the region of Thesk. This was a real missed opportunity for a score bump here by adhering to those rules and listing your languages from the Thesk region. I'm not going to hit you too hard on this, but please check and re-check that you qualify for everything you take.

    The build flows reasonably well through all levels, the Monk dip comes at an expected break point. 3 levels of Fighter is normally an eyebrow raiser, but here it gets you the Sneak Attack dice needed for Telflammar Shadowlord. You enter the SI as early as possible. The brief exodus for Telflammar Shadowlord serves to enhance an element of the SI. The only other thing that jumps out at me as an elegance problem is your justification for taking Craft Wondrous Item. I can certainly see such a thing being a sticking point for some GMs. That said, you could just swap Power Attack and Craft Wondrous Item around in your build and everything works fine (due to your caster level from Telflammar Shadowlord).

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3.25
    Ok, so how did you do with the big question? Well, you cover the bases for qualification, and you take all 10 levels. But how do you make use of the class features? Well, you max Truespeak (and grabbed Skill Focus), as is expected, and you also put a solid investment into two of the other class skills (Concentration and Diplomacy), but focus your efforts on skills that have little to do with the SI. You do make use of Cadences of the Distant Step, with Telflammar Shadowlord and Sun School.

    But other than that, you really don't have much use for any of the other Cadences or class abilities. You don't qualify for the bonus feat you selected. I appreciate your fluff reasoning for entering the class (Alter Personal Name), and I can kind of see your idea for Cadence Mastery using Cadence of the Distant Step and Cadence of the Thunder Drake, but given that they are supposed to happen at the same time, you may run into difficulty with assuming that you teleport first and then trigger your breath weapon. You overshadow Cadence of the Distant Step with Shadow Stride. Your fluff and utilization of a small amount of the SI mean that you narrowly escape the Dreaded QuestionTM.

    I do like the idea of someone using a marauding force's own strength against them, and got a chuckle out of the marauding force being a crowd of Truenamer's stepping all over everyone in a desperate bid to collect what they need for the Paragnostic Assembly so that their class features will actually matter and work reasonably.

    The Slender Shadow - 11

    Originality: 3.75
    Dragonborn Lesser Tiefling is odd, to be sure. You aren't the only Shadowpouncer, and they also went Invisible Fist Cobra Strike Monk (and picked up Shadow Stride with Martial Study). You do pop in some Martial Focused Conjurer, but man, this is one big ugly soup. I like that you popped in Kung Fu Genius, and Desert Wind Dodge is fun. Recitation of the Sanguine State is neat, and I can honestly say that I didn't expect Quicken Breath. Not bad overall, but my socks remain on and firmly un-rocked.

    Power: 3.5
    Wow, look at all those knowledges! I'll be you took Knowledge Devo ... what? Let's move on from that missed opportunity right now. You do make an excellent sneak, with maxed stealth, some sources for limited Invisibility, and Darkstalker. You fall short of the much loved +16 BAB, so your shadow pounces are not as impressive as they could be - even with Sun School. You get a little bit of versatility from your very limited selection of low-level spells, and a small number of maneuvers. You have the best saves of the bunch. I'm not sure your Quicken trick works the way you think it does, but assuming it works you do have a nice ability to nova out some damage. I think that you may have been better served focusing less on getting teleportation abilities (in order to sidestep the weaknesses of the SI) and instead focus on making what you had great. Paragnostic Assembly usage helps keep your Truespeak check relevant alongside max ranks and Skill Focus, so you are solid there. You are going to have a hard time contributing much outside of combat, but in combat you can do quite well.

    Elegance: 2.75
    The build is well-sourced, and reads nicely. But the class progression is a mess. You have four dips, and they just don't gel into a cohesive entity. As stated above, you may have been better served focusing less on getting all those wiz-bang methods for reliable teleportation (and completely overshadowing the SI), and more on the abilities you get from the SI. Using Desert Wind Dodge to replace the Dodge bonus feat from Cobra Strike Monk is very neat, I'll have to remember that one. You manage to avoid multi-class penalties despite your wild mix of classes. You do have another qualification problem though, you don't qualify for Telflammar Shadowlord, because you don't meet the regional requirement (be eligible for taking Thesk regional feats, or have 2 ranks in Knowledge(Local)). It's a super easy mistake to make, but important to remember in competition.

    I appreciate the Adaptations section, it's nice to have options to consider. I think the only other issue that jumps out at me is your interpretation of how Cadence of the Thunder Drake works with the Quicken Breath feat. I'm actually fairly convinced that it doesn't, or at least it certainly doesn't work the way you mention. Cadence of the Thunder Drake doesn't grant you a breath weapon, it lets you make a breath weapon attack, which is similar but not quite the same thing. It's sort of similar to a spell that lets you make a breath weapon attack (Like the Dragon Breath spell from the Spell Compendium). You could cast that spell (as a standard action) and then use Quicken Breath on the resulting breath weapon, but Quicken Breath wouldn't effect the casting time of the spell. Likewise here, it won't effect the Standard action required to speak the Cadence.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 1
    You don't qualify for the SI. You don't have the required 9 ranks in Truespeak when you take it. You also don't list your known languages (although this is a lesser concern, as you clearly have them based on your Int). Always check and re-check your build to make sure you qualify for the SI.

    Had you qualified, you certainly made use of two of the SI's class skills, as well as Cadence of the Distant Step (although you completely overshadow it with your other teleportation abilities). You have enough mods to Truespeak to make your Cadences relevant all day, which is good. You can use the bonus feat you get, but have no particular synergy with it. You don't utilize your Knowledge skills for anything other than as a vehicle to the Paragnostic Assembly - you really could have benefited from having Knowledge Devotion. You make an effort to optimize Cadence of the Thunder Dragon, which is excellent. The rest of the Cadences are left untouched, and unloved.

    Astraea Theodosia - 13.5

    Originality: 4
    Wow, Invisible Fist got a lot of love this competition. Something about the SI apparently drew folks to the Monk class as well. But Kalashtar was different, as was the Arcane Stunt Swashbuckler. I'm not sure why you took Skill Focus(Bluff), as you didn't take enough Passive Way Monk for it to matter. Knowledge Devotion was good to see, and it was nice to see you stick to the theme by devoting some feats to your unarmed combat side. Exemplar was the big win here, and I'm really surprised you were the only person to go for it. It's got excellent synergy with the SI due to the nature of Truespeak being a skill. Also, I like to see skill tricks used, especially when they enhance the SI. Sadly, only one of your tricks enhances the SI, and that's Collector of Stories.

    Power: 3.75
    How does Astraea function on the power scale? Well, she's a capable front-line combatant, and can reliably hit her Truespeak DCs for the adventuring day thanks to Exemplar. If you count items beyond the Amulet of the Silver Tongue and the Paragnostic Assembly, you alleviate that some, but the reliance on those items for power makes the exchange a wash. You've got some pretty terrific skills here. Solid mobility with Tumble, good social abilities with Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive. You get some reasonable benefit from Knowledge Devotion. You back up several of your skills with solid skill trick choices. You've got some added versatility from Arcane Stunt and Invisible Fist, and you keep your damage relevant with Insightful Strike.

    Elegance: 2.75
    The build is not sourced at all, but the layout is easy to read, and the build flows well save for three points. The first is that using Uncanny Trickster to advance a Prestige Class beyond 10th level is questionable at best, and may not do anything useful at worst. The other is a far lesser concern, but I'm a bit fuzzy on why you took that 3rd level of monk. You don't appear to have any abilities that function off of movement speed or Still Mind, so it looks like you just took it to avoid a dip. I guess what I'm saying is that it sticks out like a sore thumb. The third is that you don't qualify for Recitation feats, as they require the ability to speak Utterances. Also, you don't qualify for Acolyte of the Ego when you take it, because of the timing between assigning skill points and taking feats (see Use of the Secret Ingredient).

    Otherwise, everything here is pretty solid.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3
    You don't qualify for the SI. The order of leveling up indicates that you spend skill points before you select feats. That means Truename Training comes online too late. You could have simply put Truename Training at first level and gotten rid of the unused Skill Focus(Bluff) feat, which would have conveniently let you drop Skill Focus(Truespeak) earlier into the build.

    That said, you utilize several class skills well, with skill tricks, maxed ranks, and Exemplar. The issue here, and you were not alone, is that you didn't do anything with the class abilities. You didn't build on any of them, and so even if the Uncanny Trickster trick works the way you want it to, you just wind up with more class abilities that you don't put to any use.

    But I liked Astraea. She really had a solid feel for being an Acolyte of the Ego. In fact, she's my choice for Honorable Mention, as I really think the addition of Exemplar was an excellent way to go for reliability.

    So there you have it. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence!

    Last Word: I'm really surprised that no one took the Quicken Spell-Like Ability feat from the Monster Manual. Seems like it would have been an awesome way to pre-buff with Cadence Mastery provided you could get your Truespeak check high enough. Am I missing a reason why this feat wouldn't have worked?
    Last edited by Deadline; 2014-10-27 at 12:37 AM.
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